Saturday 24 April 2010

Where I come from 2: MA in Pedantry

Oh Freddie, what have I got myself into? Why did I have to put the first installment of my attempt to let philosophy emerge on my blog? It has been a pain in the arse ever since I uploaded it, knowing that, now that it was public, I could not back out of it again. I felt the urge to write and upload numerous other stories, but wouldn’t allow myself to follow up the first installment of my English attempt at philosophy with the review of a cocktail bar. So I actually started exploring other platforms to post my writings. Why was I trying to avoid getting on with it and writing installment number two? I’m afraid that right now, even trying to find an answer to that question would be avoidance behaviour, but hopefully it will become clear on the way.

Charlie was right about one thing: academic performance is irrelevant.

Charlie’s ideologies reminded me of the last story in Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, but when I asked him whether he’d heard of Palahniuk, he said he found reading extremely difficult and wasn’t well read. Now, as a writer, I would say that a writer who doesn’t read shows lack of interest in his own trade and since he doesn’t know what his competitors are doing he probably won’t be able to match them.

Philosophy, however, is not a trade, and though a philosopher is not immune to ‘petty’ issues such as competition, a real philosopher won’t just indulge in intellectual contests and win, but rather experience that he is compelled to do so and wonder why it is that he cannot resist.

Now, universities are full of people who show off their mental capacities without thinking, always have been. Especially Philosophy MA’s & PhD’s are a breeding ground for top notch brain wrestlers. But Charlie was right: having read a vast amount of philosophical works, knowing everything there is to know about Schleiermacher, Hegel and Gadamer and being able to refute the works of Kant, Descartes and Plato doesn’t make them philosophers.

I can’t tell you what philosophy is, Freddie, nor what makes a philosopher. But I can tell you that academic high performance isn’t it. All those academics who, despite their success, never wrote or said a relevant word are not philosophers. I honestly can’t see why and how anyone could stick the same tag on them and the people whose work they study: Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Heidegger.

Again, I can’t tell you what philosophy is, but I’ve got a suspicion it’s something that takes place in the words of those philosophers. And every time I listen to Stairway to Heaven, I can’t help but think it happens there too. But if I fail to show you what happens in that song, I won’t know whether that is because

a) I am not sensitive enough to see something taking place in an English text

b) Nothing philosophical takes place in Led Zeppelin’s words

c) I’m rubbish at pointing out to you what’s taking place

d) You aren’t sensitive enough to see it.

Scientifically speaking it’s a useless experiment. That being said, let’s shut up and listen to the song.



Continue readingWhere I come from 3: The Words, The Wonderful Word.

Or go back and read Where I come from 1: Pub Talk Philosophy.